crowd of people at Brandt Storytelling conference

What Years of Working In Customer Service Has Taught Me

I have worked in customer service for seven years now, and the amount it has taught me is immeasurable. Specifically, I have worked in two different restaurants. The first was back home in Seattle during high school, and I currently host at Porcupine near the U. I’d like to start by saying that I LOVE working at Porcupine because it’s a fun environment. I also get to work alongside and with great people—for the most part. As anyone who has worked in customer service can say, working with consumers teaches you a lot. Here are the top things I have learned through my work in restaurants.

women eating and drinking wine in a restaurant Pexels / bruno mars

Your encounter can either make or break someone’s day

No matter what’s going on in my life, I’ve learned to just be a certain way when I go to work. Some may call it fake; I call it part of the job. I’m a host, so I’m the first person every customer sees and interacts with. Immediate enthusiasm and politeness are key, and it works every time no matter the mood of the customer. They are the priority, so doing the most you can within your job ability typically makes their day. It all depends on their situation. Whatever I can do to make a guest’s current situation better, I will do. For example, one time a woman and her family came in and were visibly upset even before they spoke to me. I did everything as usual, still asking how their evening was and what they were up to. Turns out, they had a sick child at Primary Children’s. On their way out, they informed me that because of the moods of their me and their server, they had a lovely time and getting away from the hospital for a moment helped them to temporarily forget their situation. From instances like this, I learn that there is a way to do your exact job but in a way that is above and beyond. They may be one out of hundreds of guests for me, but I can impact their whole day or night.

 

Customers will yell at you for almost anything—​even if they know it isn’t your fault

This is probably the number one thing I’ve learned to get over and not take personally, because it happens all the time. Porcupine gets incredibly busy whenever there are events on campus such as plays, shows, sporting events, or concerts. Unfortunately, many people will show up without enough time to spare and then get angry at me for there being too long of a wait. They know it was their mistake, but at the moment, I’m the person standing between them, their meal, and their event. It’s a common occurrence, and it really has nothing to do with you, so don’t be personally bothered by it. I usually do the typical “calmly reiterate that there is nothing you can do” and hope that the manager doesn’t need to be brought out.

 

Many people really don’t know how things work

This one shocks me every single time, but the amount of people in this world who either don’t seem to understand how restaurants work or were not raised knowing proper restaurant etiquette. Even if your customer service job was not in a restaurant, I guarantee you, you’ve had these people as well. Example time! When we have a wait list, I constantly get accused of “seating out of order” aka seating not in the exact chronological order of when people showed up. Because there’s this crazy thing called tables meant for different group sizes. So no, I’m not seating out of order, I’m going down the list working with what I’ve got available. Another one that most people here in Utah get angry about is the fact that you legally have to order food if you want to drink at a licensed restaurant. Customers act like it’s some weird Utah rule, but it’s actually a law in almost every state that comes with the distinction between a bar and restaurant. Therefore, I strongly recommend knowing or learning this information, so you don’t look like a fool. Lastly, if you cannot afford to tip 20%, then you shouldn’t be eating out. It’s rude, I don’t make the rules!

 

You know how to work with every type of person

Especially in restaurants, you get to see people of all ages, interests, and types. We serve everyone from children, prom groups, U students, families, sports fans, senior citizens, to essential oil fanatics (we were so busy during the YoungLiving convention). Different times of the day also bring certain types of people. We get the mid-40’s ladies coming in for Saturday mimosas, the post-church Sunday brunch crowd, large groups gathering on a Friday night, and all the bros coming for the infamous $2 (beer) Tuesdays. These interactions have taught me how to cater to people of all types and walks of life. They all have different styles and needs, so it’s not a one size fits all. Knowing how to interact depending on the crowd is automatic for me.

large room with a bar Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

In my opinion, everyone should have experience in some form of customer service, whether it’s retail, a support center, restaurant, bank telling, etc. As someone who has worked in customer service for over seven years, I can easily distinguish individuals who have from those who haven’t. I am super grateful for what my customer service jobs have taught me!